Beame, Abraham David

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BEAME, ABRAHAM DAVID (1906–2001), first Jewish mayor of New York (but see *Lewis, Samuel). Beame was born in London, but was brought to New York by his parents before he was a year old. He grew up on the Lower East Side and graduated from the City College of New York in 1928. He practiced accounting during 1928–46, becoming a Certified Public Accountant in 1930, and from 1929 taught accounting and commercial law at Rutgers University. In 1946 he was appointed assistant budget director of the City of New York, and director in 1952, serving as a member of many city and state committees and commissions dealing with management, social services, the courts, city employees, the state constitution, and intergovernmental fiscal relationships.

In 1962, and again in 1969, Beame was elected comptroller and in 1965 won the mayoral nomination of the Democratic Party in a primary election. In 1967 he was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention. In November 1973, at age 67, Beame defeated State Senator John Marchi and won the election for mayor of New York by a landslide victory, which included 63% of the Jewish vote and 68% of the black vote. He assumed office on January 1, 1974, as the 104th mayor of New York.

During his term of office, the city endured such crises as terrorist bombings, a citywide power failure that resulted in violence and looting, and the Son of Sam serial killings. At the same time, Beame faced the worst fiscal crisis in the city's history and spent most of his term trying to ward off bankruptcy. He slashed the city workforce, froze wages, and restructured the budget, which proved insufficient until reinforced by actions from newly created state-sponsored entities and the granting of federal funds. After a tumultuous four years as mayor, he ran for a second term in 1977 but was succeeded in 1978 by Edward *Koch, also a Jew. Despite criticism about his methods, Beame left office with a $200 million surplus for the city, having entered the mayoralty facing a $1.5 billion deficit.

Beame retired from politics but remained active as head of the Advisory Board of the umb Bank and Trust, and later senior advisor of Sterling National Bank. He also served on the board of directors of a number of civic and corporate foundations.


Chris McNickle, To Be Mayor of New York (1993).

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]